'Biking while black': Chicago minority areas see the most bike tickets

Okay as the article points out there are lots of potential explanations for this but not a single North side area listed in the top ticked areas?

As Chicago police ramp up their ticketing of bicyclists, more than twice as many citations are being written in African-American communities than in white or Latino areas, a Tribune review of police statistics has found.

The top 10 community areas for bike tickets from 2008 to Sept. 22, 2016, include seven that are majority African-American and three that are majority Latino. From the areas with the most tickets written to the least, they are Austin, North Lawndale, Humboldt Park, South Lawndale, Chicago Lawn, West Englewood, Roseland, West Garfield Park, New City and South Chicago.

Not a single majority-white area ranked in the top 10, despite biking's popularity in white areas such as West Town and Lincoln Park."

Read full article at the Tribune site...

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Well written! You hit the nail on the head while others "dance" around it.

It seems to me that the root cause that needs addressing is uncivil behavior by motorists. This leads to cyclists feeling unsafe, which leads to them riding on the sidewalk.

Did they study how people who have to share these sidewalks feel? If they did they would almost certainly have discovered the reason why the law dictating adults should not ride their bikes on the sidewalks exists in the first place, it's aggressive behavior as experienced by kids and pedestrians in general. I rode my bike in busy streets long before we had any bike lanes, and that law predates bike lanes by decades, so a lack of them is not really a good excuse IMO.

Equal and fair enforcement on the other hand is a legitimate issue of concern. But if we could make exceptions for seniors, who do ride slower, I'd personally be fine ticketing any adult riding on a sidewalk. 

You can look at that strip of Sheridan after LSD ends at Hollywood to see where a community has demanded aggressive action against cyclists riding in that manner.

The lawbreaking on the North Side I see is not usually sidewalk riding, it's going through red lights and stop signs and riding against traffic. My guess is there just aren't enough cops dedicated to traffic enforcement out there in general, as they sure don't ticket the vast majority of motorists violating traffic laws. And this is in fact a direct result of having a segregated city by race and income, as that leads to violent crime, and with limited staffing police are prioritized in those areas, thus more cops looking to write tickets in general. They may not have a written mandate for ticket quotas, but you better believe they have an unwritten expectation which is essentially the same thing- otherwise they would be accused of shirking their duties and not doing their job.

I respectfully disagree.  There is no question that uncivil behavior by motorists is a problem but I do not see it as part of this conversation.  This a a black/white issue not a car/bike issue.  You mentioned, 

"You can look at that strip of Sheridan after LSD ends at Hollywood to see where a community has demanded aggressive action against cyclists riding in that manner."

I ride with a group of older white guys who every once in a while will go early on a weekend morning to the the lakefront by the area you described. We will cross Sheridan and ride on the sidewalk in front of the Breakers for about 100-200 feet or so. We know we are not supposed to do this. I understand why the alderman has long fought against cyclists on the sidewalk as there are a lot of elderly people in the area. The Breakers is home to people even older than the guys i ride with. We are white guys and we ride with no fear despite the enhanced enforcement because we figure we are going very slowly and deferentially and at worst we will get a ticket. However, we have little fear of a police interaction and we have zero fear of having a police interaction blow up into something else.  A black rider in one of the neighborhoods seeing  increased enforcement or even a black rider in front of the Breakers, or simply a rider on a crummmier bike, will not have the same ease and lack of fear that we have and that is the problem.  

I agree there is a discrimination issue regarding enforcement. But that's a much larger issue and not one that is going to be fixed by allowing adults to ride on the sidewalk.

People who say they ride on the sidewalk due to feeling unsafe, are feeling unsafe for a reason (why would they lie?). That reason being driving behavior seemed pretty obvious from the quotes in the Trib article. But the article didn't even touch on the rights of pedestrians on the sidewalk, that was my issue with it.

I highlighted that strip of Sheridan (and that's been an issue there as long as I can remember, at least mid-90s) only to show that riding on the sidewalk is not a victim-less activity, that stretch is an extreme example for sure. But so is yours, as you and your friends are being conscientious, while many sidewalk riders are not.

The conversation we need is how to move forward. It seems to me that you make the streets safer for cyclists on all fronts, get CPD brass to send a message down through the ranks that this is not the protection that these communities are in need of and they need to re-calibrate their priorities and then go from there. That is not the same thing as saying riding on the sidewalk is OK.

The issue is the racist behavior of the Chicago Police Department (and this covers many areas), but for this conversation we are about the how the largest group of bikers are on the north side of Chicago, however the greatest amount of tickets were written in non-white areas of the city. It's the same type of thinking "We are going to harass the non-whites (ones who are likely to have less income to fight back), but at the same time we are going to ignore the more prosperous communities". The same occurs with the building of biking infrastructure. Hell, we can't even get nonskid metal plates on 2 bridges that become a hazard when it rains. 

If the city is so concerned about the safety of pedestrians (as they claim), why adults allowed to ride Divvy bikes on the sidewalks of Michigan Ave. Why aren't these people ticketed (BTW they are white). So, it's not so much about safety than it is about the illegal harassment of people of color and the inability of these individuals to stand up to these racist policies that emanate from the folks at city hall. 

I second your views Waymond. I have a hard time believing that CPD is so concerned about biking on sidewalks on the South Side.

And let me be clear, it's well within their legal rights to ticket these people. Biking on the sidewalks is illegal, dangerous to pedestrians, and should be ticketed.

Yet as someone who bikes to work every day through River North, I can tell you I see both bikers and DRIVERS committing every possible dangerous offense without a peep from the CPD. I see cars sitting in the middle of intersections, triple parking, running lights, forcing pedestrians out of their way - often enough in plain view of officers. They do nothing.

So it's hard for me not to believe - as others have suggested - that this selective enforcement is about harassment.

FYI - perspective from a CPD officer on bike tickets for riding on the sidewalk on the south and west sides is that they're generally after drug dealers, who are increasingly moving product by bike. Writing a bike ticket is probable cause to look for other stuff. Unfortunately, innocent people who are just trying to safely get where they're going get caught up in this. It sucks.

The Drug War is really an even large root cause here, no doubt.

And it is beyond debatable that is a complete racist institution, so yes, I agree there are a lot of connections here. People probably saw this, but maybe some hope on the horizon:



The drug problem is the excuse.  There is always a "valid" reason to profile and mass incarcerate Black people.  The reason-du-jour is whatever you are comfortable embracing once a few excuses are thrown at the wall.  

Thanks for letting me know.  I often fall behind on why I'm inferior and worthy of excessive prosecution.  Sometimes it's drugs, other times it's crime, gang-banger, welfare cheat, car thief, pick-pocket, wolf-packing...  I wish there was an ap.

Better Answer:  The Black Tax of a broke city is really an even large root cause here, no doubt.  (Just keep telling yourself that other thing.)

They way that statement works is if one assumes that more Black people on bikes are most likely "drug dealers moving product."  It is the EXACT stereotyping of African-American cyclists that I'm talking about.  It's the tone and tenor of most of the mainstream meetings of cycling in Chicago.  How you can so casually make such an absolutely offensive statement like that used to boggle my mind.  Now I expect it.  In "new" Chicago it is perfectly OK to profile us.  "Unfortunately, innocent [black people]..." 

What "sucks" a lot more is the ease at which this statement is made.  Chicago's systemic racist-pity is what "sucks."  


Don't mean to belabor the point but I think this officer is pulling one over on you.

"Probable cause" means the officials have legitimate reasons to assume that an individual committed a crime.  

Police throughout the country have used this excuse to stop minorities walking in white neighborhoods or search cars for minor traffic violations.  The courts have thrown these kinds of arrests out for lack of "probable cause." So for example it's known that Mexican drug dealers move drugs by trucks from Texas but that doesn't allow the police to stop all Mexicans driving trucks on the interstates.

What is really going on here, as the officer acknowledges, is they are using a very minor traffic violation to cast a wide net for drug dealers.  They are harassing lots of bikers - and at a rate much greater than on the North side - to snare x % of dealers.  

Now that a light has been shined on this I'm hoping some lawyer takes this case on.  Again, "stop and frisk" has been thrown out all over the country and it seems to me this is what's going on. Not some bullshit probable cause.

The cops will tell a judge that "because he was biking on the sidwalk I though he was a drug dealer?"  I don't think so.

Anyhow, I don't have that "JD" by my name so take my comments as you will.  But this is my understanding of what "probable cause" is all about.


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